Clam Chowder

Clam chowder is comfort food at its finest. I’ve made it a few times recently for football tailgates. I’ve tinkered with a few clam chowder recipes and landed on a few techniques that work well for me.


  • Soup always tastes better the next day. Make the soup, minus adding the clams, the night before you want to serve it. Reheat and add the clams the right before serving. Avoid overcooking the clams–they get rubbery. Ew.
  • Let the clams be the star of this dish. Resist the urge to over-season the chowder with bacon or extra spices. All you need is salt pork, a bay leaf, and a touch of black pepper.
  • Dice all of the ingredients smaller than you might do normally. I try to keep my diced veggies smaller than the clams so that the clams are the biggest element in each spoonful.
  • Go low and slow. Let the salted pork render the fat before letting it brown. Don’t let the onions and other veggies brown.
  • Use a mix of types of clams. I use canned whole baby clams and minced clams. The mixture of clams gives texture and keeps things interesting.
  • Use a mix of potatoes. Russet potatoes melt into the base of the chowder and yukon potatoes maintain their shape for texture. This combination sets a strong foundation. You can use a potato masher to break up any potatoes that are too firm.
  • You don’t need to use a lot of flour to make a roux. A lot of recipes use 1/4 cup or more, but that can make the chowder gluey. However, you still need a little bit of flour to keep the dairy from breaking.
  • I use half and half for richness. Other recipes use whole milk, heavy cream or a combination of both. I prefer not to have to buy multiple types of dairy. Use whatever dairy makes you happy.


  • 12 ounces salt pork, skin removed, rinsed & small dice
  • 1.5 yellow onions
  • 4 ribs of celery
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 ounces of clam juice
  • 8 ounces of water
  • 2 lbs russet potatoes
  • 1.5 lbs yukon potatoes
  • 3 cups half & half
  • 10 ounces canned whole baby clams
  • 11 ounces canned chopped clams
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley

Remove the skin from the salt pork. Dice it small and rinse in cool water. Add the salt pork to your soup pot and render on medium-low for 10-15 minutes until the fat has rendered and the salt pork is lightly brown.

Finely dice the onion and celery. Add them to the soup pot and sweat (don’t brown!) for 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, stir, and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, clam juice and water. Cook for 5 minutes to ensure the flour has fully incorporated into the broth. Add the potatoes and half & half. Add a little extra water or half & half if the potatoes aren’t fully submerged. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Use a potato masher to break up some of the potatoes into the chowder so that it’s as chunky or smooth as you like.

If you’re taking my advice about making the chowder the day before, this is where we stop for now. Refrigerate overnight.

When you’re ready to serve the chowder, stir in the canned clams and their juices. Add black pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.